from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A barren or desolate area, especially:
  • n. A dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, extreme temperatures, and sparse vegetation.
  • n. A region of permanent cold that is largely or entirely devoid of life.
  • n. An apparently lifeless area of water.
  • n. An empty or forsaken place; a wasteland: a cultural desert.
  • n. Archaic A wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region.
  • adj. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or inhabiting a desert: desert fauna.
  • adj. Barren and uninhabited; desolate: a desert island.
  • n. Something that is deserved or merited, especially a punishment. Often used in the plural: They got their just deserts when the scheme was finally uncovered.
  • n. The state or fact of deserving reward or punishment.
  • transitive v. To leave empty or alone; abandon.
  • transitive v. To withdraw from, especially in spite of a responsibility or duty; forsake: deserted her friend in a time of need.
  • transitive v. To abandon (a military post, for example) in violation of orders or an oath.
  • intransitive v. To forsake one's duty or post, especially to be absent without leave from the armed forces with no intention of returning.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A barren area of land or desolate terrain, especially one with little water or vegetation; a wasteland.
  • n. Any barren place or situation.
  • adj. Abandoned, deserted, or uninhabited; usually of a place.
  • n. That which is deserved or merited; a just punishment or reward
  • v. To leave (anything that depends on one's presence to survive, exist, or succeed), especially when contrary to a promise or obligation; to abandon; to forsake.
  • v. To leave one's duty or post, especially to leave a military or naval unit without permission.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to a desert; forsaken; without life or cultivation; unproductive; waste; barren; wild; desolate; solitary.
  • n. That which is deserved; the reward or the punishment justly due; claim to recompense, usually in a good sense; right to reward; merit.
  • n. A deserted or forsaken region; a barren tract incapable of supporting population, as the vast sand plains of Asia and Africa which are destitute of moisture and vegetation.
  • n. A tract, which may be capable of sustaining a population, but has been left unoccupied and uncultivated; a wilderness; a solitary place.
  • intransitive v. To abandon a service without leave; to quit military service without permission, before the expiration of one's term; to abscond.
  • transitive v. To leave (especially something which one should stay by and support); to leave in the lurch; to abandon; to forsake; -- implying blame, except sometimes when used of localities.
  • transitive v. To abandon (the service) without leave; to forsake in violation of duty; to abscond from

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To abandon, either in a good or a bad sense; forsake; hence, to cast off or prove recreant to: as, to desert a falling house; a deserted village; to desert a friend or a cause.
  • To leave without permission; forsake; escape from, as the service in which one is engaged, in violation of duty: as, to desert an army; to desert one's colors; to desert a ship.
  • To quit a service or post without permission; run away: as, to desert from the army.
  • Deserted; uncultivated; waste; barren; uninhabited.
  • Pertaining to or belonging to a desert; inhabiting a desert: as, the desert folk.
  • n. A desert place or region; a waste; a wilderness; specifically, in geography, a region of considerable extent which is almost if not quite destitute of vegetation, and hence uninhabited, chiefly on account of an insufficient supply of rain: as, the desert of Sahara; the Great American Desert.
  • n. = Syn, Wilderness, Desert. Strictly, a wilderness is a wild, unreclaimed region, uninhabited and uncultivated, while a desert is largely uncultivable and uninhabitable owing to lack of moisture. A wilderness may be full of luxuriant vegetation. In a great majority of the places where desert occurs in the authorized version of the Bible, the revised version changes it to wilderness.
  • n. A deserving; that which makes one deserving of reward or punishment; merit or demerit; good conferred, or evil inflicted, which merits an equivalent return: as, to reward or punish men according to their deserts.
  • n. That which is deserved; reward or penalty merited.
  • n. Synonyms Desert, Merit, Worth. Desert expresses most and worth least of the thought or expectation of reward. None of them suggests an actual claim. He is a man of great worth or excellence; intellectual worth; moral worth; the merits of the piece are small; he is not likely to get his deserts.
  • n. See dessert.
  • n. Specifically — In phytogeography, one of the three principal types of Schimper's climatic formations, the result of excessive drought or cold. In desert all surviving vegetation is stunted and the difference between woodland and grass-land (the other two grand types) is obliterated.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. desert (a cause, a country or an army), often in order to join the opposing cause, country, or army
  • n. arid land with little or no vegetation
  • v. leave behind
  • v. leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin dēsertum, from neuter past participle of dēserere, to desert; see desert3.
Middle English, from Old French deserte, from feminine past participle of deservir, to deserve; see deserve.
French déserter, from Late Latin dēsertāre, frequentative of Latin dēserere, to abandon : dē-, de- + serere, to join; see ser-2 in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English from the Old French deserte, from deservir ("to deserve"). This in turn is from the Vulgar Latin deservire ("to gain or merit by giving service")

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

French désert or Old French desert, from Vulgar Latin desertum, from Latin desertus ("left waste"), past participle of deserere ("abandon").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French déserter, from Late Latin desertare, from Latin desertus, from deserere ("abandon")


  • It is true that in almost every desert there are these sandy plains, yet are there other parts of its surface of a far different character, equally deserving the name of _desert_.

    The Desert Home The Adventures of a Lost Family in the Wilderness

  • That's not to say I'm perfect – I've acquired the nickname 'desert cactus' because I hardly drink during training, which is something I need to work on.

    Keri-Anne Payne: 'Swimming is my passion. Baking comes a close second'

  • The term desert is far more true because wasteland is abhorrently incorrect.

    jfloydking Diary Entry

  • My idea of a desert is an eternal agony, plotted by the fury of the aridity, by the implacable confusion of a sun which, trampled by the wind, melts with the sand, until there is no other landscape than the sand dominating the sky, the ground, the wind.

    Flowers in the Desert

  • I don't mean to suggest that navigating the desert is as simple as 1-2-3.

    Dr. Judith Rich: Crossing the Spiritual Desert

  • Your points are well-made, and your goodwill toward those losers in the desert is admirable.

    Matthew Yglesias » Pittsburgh, phoenix

  • They said -- and they said it with intolerable condescension and patronage -- that for the sake of his record he might make one little speech upon the subject before a few people out in what they called the desert, and he accepted the concession.

    The Candidate A Political Romance

  • ‘If you are determined to look at what you call desert alone, I would name Lord Drummond.’

    The Prime Minister

  • "If you are determined to look to what you call desert alone, I would name Lord Drummond."

    The Prime Minister

  • This is what I call a desert; within it each church is an oasis; but how will they ever be strong enough to evangelise their region without outside help?

    SA Latest News


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  • Abandon or topography.

    November 22, 2007